Infinite Loop 28: Switch and Narrative
Apple’s New Ad Campaign

David Schultz

This article contains sentences which, if one has
been weaned on the culture of fast images and the
aberrant sounds of weirdness, the quickness of disturbing
images, the loss of memory and time, the span of
even a minute, let alone a day, or even an afternoon,
like your morning, TV, which embeds and requires
short temporal parts and bounds, being told by someone
what is going, by the likes of ‘anchors’ and ‘VJs’,
modern culture’s new teachers, or probably sophists,
and their ilk, one might have trouble following.

“The gloves have come off,” “Apple
plays hardball,” and so it goes, the description
of Apple’s
new ad campaign
. I hadn’t been on the Web that
day (involved in outside work and writing, I haven’t
been there much at all), and so when the commercial
came up on the Fox News Channel I was, to put it mildly,
pleasantly surprised. But what was more (or less,
I cannot decide) surprising was what I saw in that
commercial, or did not see – a Mac. It was like a
hole in my jeans – nothingness bounded about and existing
only within the limits that make it. Yes, I am saying
that I saw nothing and that was something. And so
I started my pilgrimage to unravel the meaning of
what I saw, namely the presence of absence.

So I went to Apple’s site to have a look-see at slash,
switch. I watched all the commercials
in a row, and in sequence as they are presented on
the page. It was rather like reading the volumes of
or any writer, in order, or listening to Mahler’s
symphonies in order – one sees the gradual growth
and realization of a whole that was there, primordial,
infant, wet and new, at the beginning.

It was clear. I saw it immediately, probably due
more to training and my own reading lists than to
any real insight on my part. I had been softened up
as it were. Maybe it was an accident that I have been
reading Augustine’s The
and The
at this time, or was trying to unravel
Proust’s way out, that led me in the direction the
ads were clearly designed to lead us; perhaps the
fact that I have recently grown tired of Enlightenment
evidentialism attuned my ear to it; perhaps my lifelong
love affair with Kierkegaard imparted a receptive
demeanor in me. Perhaps, perhaps. But it was clear.
The presence of absence. I saw no Mac there, but it
was everywhere.

“Contemplation is in fact the
reward of faith…”
(Augustine, de
Trinitas I.3.17

Aquinas said that we cannot know God directly, but
rather indirectly, that is, “through his effects.”
Of course, his most famous use of this idea is his
“Five Ways,” five arguments for the existence
of God that work from an effect in the universe (some
fact, like the existence of change), to its ultimate
Cause. The present absence of the cause is known through
the presence of the effect, thus indirectly. Even
Augustine says the challenge in thinking about God
is to rise above our perception, which presents us
constantly with change and things in change, to something
that doesn’t change, something alien to us. Yet the
Creator is present in creation. Presence in absence,
like looking at the front of a barn and ‘seeing’ the
back of it which is not present to our senses.

I have suggested that, here,
as an opiate to the megahertz myth, we retreat, or rather
advance, to personal testimonies in the debate, yes,
THE debate, that one. For technology, if I am right
(or rather if others are right, since the ideas contained
therein were all, every one, borrowed), transfers hither
unknown or unavailable quantities of power (the ability
to bring about real changes in our environment) to the
user with which he can then manipulate his environment
in more efficient ways. Thus, the worth of any technology
is measurable in the feelings of power transferred to
the agent using the technology. Thus, my wife does not
feel empowered when she comes home from working on PCs
all day, while I, working on Macs all day (when I can
get to my computer), feel very differently. The objective
reality of some things, obviously, are best understood
in terms of our subjective responses and affectations
to them. Sometimes the best indicators of objective
reality is our subjective responses.

Thus, the commercials dear reader. What do you not
see? A Mac. What do you see? All you see is people,
Mac users, who feel empowered; they are walking talking
effects of the thing never seen but only spoken of,
in highly affectionate ways, athropomorphized in many
ways, such as endowed with “wants” and personality,
that thing whose (yes WHOSE) presence is everywhere
FELT but never seen, or is seen, as Aquinas would
say, only through its effects.

The testimony. The testimony indeed. Augustine’s
is a testimony, of sorts (albeit of
very high philosophical quality, especially starting
in Book X, by the way, a fact which means absolutely
nothing but some might find fanciful). A testimony:
the first-person reenactment through storytelling
of a conversion or change into a new and many times
unexpected way of life, thereby trying to establish
the worthwhile of that way of life. Now, dear reader,
tell me, are not these commercials then testimonies?
And are they not, dear reader, fingers pointing behind
the camera to something we do not see but which is
more real for the very fact that we do not see it,
and but for which it has had such a real effect on
the ones testifying?

Think about what I said. Why show a Mac at all? I
mean really, and why show a guy burning MP3s or sorting
tunes on his iPod or whatever? Why show a Mac at all
if there are such strong feelings against it? The
well has been poisoned. Everyone can disagree with
these things or say that he can do them on a ‘Wintel’
(a word from the commercials, BTW). But, with testimonies,
precisely because they are first-person reports, manifestations
of introspective knowledge which has fewer defeaters,
the revelation of our own, as Hume would say, ‘privileged
access,’ the kind of experience Descartes wants us
to recognize and follow as we meditate with him on
his “Meditations on First Philosophy,”…
but, I say again, how can one disagree with you if
you say “I am hungry”, “I am sad”,
“I dislike your person”? To do so would
be, frankly, silly.

Now consider any of these nice folks who offer us
their testimonies and say to them, “No, you don’t
feel that way at all.” The heights of silliness!
A tragicomedy of non-Biblical proportions! No, you
cannot disagree with any of them (I bracket the Neo-Freudians
out there).

When one of them says “I get the Mac, but I don’t
get a PC,” we cannot say “You do not get it.”
She does, for she just told us so. How dare you say
“No…” to her privileged access! Fools. Fools
all! When the DJ says that her iBook is her “friend,”
we all know what she means, and we all know it’s not
to be taken literally, we all know it’s “Applelust,”
(viz. the trying to put into words what cannot be put
into words and thus one resorts to metaphors and analogies),
we all know the linguistic quandary she finds herself
in, the gulf between thought and language that seems
to ground the very practice of philosophy, and we all
know it would be as silly to say she does not feel this
way as it would be to tell her she is not sleepy when
she insists she is.

We might make judgments about this person; we might
evaluate him or her. We might have philosophical quibbles
with the way of life to which the testimony testifies,
and we may even disagree. But we cannot say that she
does not feel what she says she feels when she says
she feels it. We are our best interpreters, and we
assume that the process of prelinguistic self-analysis
has taken place. It’s the nature of the testimony.
But this begins to fade as the number of testifiers
increases, and thus Apple gave us eight, which is
about most Generation X can handle.

It’s also the price of testimony that the cause of
which it is the effect may have at least as much reality
as the effect. If the testimony fails, so does the
thought system that is testified to. But considering
what we just said, it is not a casual undertaking
to debunk these things; all the more reason why we
will see lame, feeble, and clumsy attempts at debunking
them. Our society, this Postmodern deep end of the
pool, will assure us of that.

In fact, the commercials themselves are so Postmodern,
aren’t they? Surely someone has pointed this out.
Surely, someone has noticed this glaring sunlight
obstructing our vision of the road. Yes, Lyotard says
that ‘Postmodernism’ is the “incredulity toward
metanarratives.” But if the grand metanarrative
has collapsed then obviously, as many real (as opposed
to fake and fraudulent) philosophers are saying, the
solemn, personal narrative has been enthroned. Your
story, my story, his story, her story, their story,
is now worthwhile, if it is not subsumed under a grand
metanarrative; your life is now (or always was, I
can’t figure that one out), a text, so write it, speak
it, tell it and live it. Disregard truth so-called
and dismantle the grand metanarratives. That’s right,
you don’t see a Mac in those commercials because we,
WE, have made the Mac into a metanarrative with its
own myths, rituals, heroes, antiheroes, warlike struggles
and meaning-blessings from on high by technological
priests; we’ve done it through all the smaller narratives
that make up the ‘Mac Web’. Each website is a testimony
of its publisher and writers. Yet, we hang on to metanarratives.
Oh, the paradox of it all. Anyway…

No Enlightenment evidentialism here, folks. No historical
references or setting, but a kind of infinite passion
planted and growing out of a contingent, finite ground
which has all necessary nutrients for spontaneous
(re)generation. Eight of them in fact. Eight different
commercials. No, it’s not Enlightenment rationalism
we see here, but the awkward stepson of it – Romanticism.
Romanticism, with its emphasis on the “ineffability
of inspiration” [i.e., Applelust], the prompting
of emotion over reason, the human drama worked out
against the background of a curious and dangerous
Nature, the Organism; we see a celebration of the
imaginative, spiritual, emotional, creative and artistic
depths of the human spirit. Romanticism is the idolatry
of self-assertion, sometimes on titanic scales (Napoleon
and the French Revolution), yet more oft times of
one person’s encounter with It, and the change brought

Back to religion, with which I started this essay.
We all know the tradition, the Reformed Tradition
perhaps, or the patristic “What does Jerusalem
have to with Athens?” so asked Tertullian in
the great conflict of faith and reason we read in
the opening chapters of the church. Indeed, what
does Cupertino have to do with Redmond?!
it “faith seeking understanding” or “understanding
seeking faith”? It seems the former in many ways:
One can’t get it until he makes the leap; to get into
Apple one has to be in Apple. You won’t get faith
unless you have faith. Regeneration through a leap
of faith in which the scales fall off of our eyes
and we see, for the first time, what was there all
along; we see but retain our inherent blindness, because
the eyes are no longer the organs of sight; and neither
are the eyes merely windows through which we “look
out” to grasp the world. It’s presented to us
in faith.

Someone says “I get it,” and another talks
of the “friend” the Mac has become and one
talks about “soul” and one talks of taking
“the leap,” (read Kierkegaard all the way
here, brothers and sisters, another philosophical and
literary reference, these people are not dumb), and
so on. Put it all together, and add what I have said
about testimonies, and what do you have? That’s right,
all together now… “The
singular expression through multiple forms of a kind
of fideistic mysticism or religious awakening which
was brought about from using a Mac.”
new here. Simply put, tracing the lines and connecting
the dots once you watch all of them in succession, this
ad campaign says the Mac is something that you get only
after you take a leap of faith, and then, once baptized
into the clan, once regenerated by the Mac spirit –
more of a zeitgeist really, a kind of passion’s stance
toward all things as things – through the act of faith,
you will then get it and will see the world, yourself
and PCs in a completely different way.

Think different, er, I mean, take the leap.

David Schultz

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